SALT LAKE CITY — Bird baths and feeders that have not been cleaned or sanitized are breeding bacteria that may be killing songbirds in several states, including Utah.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is reporting an outbreak of salmonellosis is killing birds in Washington, Oregon and Idaho over the last few months, and it may be spreading to Utah.
Utah is a great place for bird watchers because of all the protected land, including the five national parks, six national forests, and more than 40 state parks and recreation areas.
DWR says there is an increased number of reports of sick and dying birds near bird feeders in the Beehive state.
“Salmonellosis is a bacterial disease that is transmitted through direct contact and is commonly spread when birds ingest feed contaminated with infected feces,” said Faith Jolley a DWR spokesperson. “Bird feeders can be a source of disease transmission since birds often congregate at the feeders, particularly during the winter months.”
Pine siskins, goldfinches and Cassin’s finches are the birds most commonly affected by salmonellosis, although all birds that frequent bird feeders can be impacted by disease.
“Signs of salmonellosis in birds may include ruffled feathers, rapid breathing, lethargy, weakness, neurological signs and diarrhea,” she said. “These symptoms can eventually result in coma and death, or the birds may remain infected over time and become carriers of the disease.”
If sick or dead birds are found in your neighborhood, the DWR offers the following suggestions:
- Temporarily take down and remove all bird feeders, water containers and bird baths for at least a month. This will encourage birds to disperse and will help slow the transmission of the disease.
- Use gloves when touching the feeder, clean it thoroughly with soap and water, and disinfect it with 10% bleach solution. Soak it for at least 30 minutes, and then rinse thoroughly and let it dry completely.
- Clean the area under the bird feeder and remove all bird seeds, which could attract birds to the area.
- If you have more than five sick or dead birds in your yard, please contact the nearest DWR office. The DWR may submit some of the birds for disease testing if the deaths are occurring in a new area. If the birds are not being submitted for testing, please use gloves to dispose of any dead birds into a closed plastic bag and place it in a trash can.
Utah attracts approximately 450 different species of birds. Besides Utah’s vast open spaces, the state is in the Central North American migration flyway to make it a top birding destination.
Clean and sanitized feeders and bird baths can attract a lot of different birds in Cache Valley and keep them healthy.